National News

Congressman Is Criticized for Joking That Justice Ginsburg Was ‘Groped’ by Lincoln

Posted September 21, 2018 4:36 p.m. EDT

A Republican congressman from South Carolina has been criticized for making a sexual assault joke about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying the 85-year-old was “groped” by Abraham Lincoln.

The congressman, Ralph Norman, was making reference to recent allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist from California, has said that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

“Did you all hear the latest breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings?” Norman told the crowd at a Thursday meeting of the Kiwanis in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln.”

A video of his comments was posted on the website of The Herald, a newspaper in Rock Hill. Norman was debating his Democratic challenger, Archie Parnell.

Democrats swiftly criticized the congressman. “Ralph Norman just proved he may be rich but he doesn’t have any class,” Trav Robertson, chairman of South Carolina’s Democratic Party, said in a tweet.

Even the Kiwanis, which hosted the debate, distanced themselves from Norman, writing on Twitter that his statements “do not reflect The Objects of Kiwanis.”

Norman won a special election last year in South Carolina’s 5th District and is running for re-election. A spokesman for Norman declined to comment, saying the congressman addressed his remarks on Twitter.

“My comments earlier today were meant to add a bit of levity to a very serious debate,” Norman tweeted Thursday, adding, “People really need to learn to lighten up.”

Ginsburg, the second woman to become a Supreme Court justice, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She has long been an advocate of equal rights for women.

Norman’s opponent, Parnell, has had his own issues related to abuse. This year, The Post and Courier obtained divorce records that showed he repeated struck his then-wife in 1973. Parnell did not deny the allegations, telling the newspaper, “Forty-five years ago, while still a college student, I did something that I have regretted every single day since.”

Despite the admission, Parnell handily won the Democratic primary in June. On Thursday, he tweeted that sexual assault was not funny, adding of Norman, “But I guess that’s the best we can expect from someone who pulled a loaded gun on his own constituents.”

In April, Norman was at a breakfast meeting with constituents in Rock Hill when he pulled a handgun from the pocket of his blazer, placed it on the table and asked the attendees if they felt safer, according to news reports. The gun lingered on the table for several minutes.

A representative of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America who was present at the meeting said that the move was meant to intimidate the advocacy group.

The congressman later said he did not intend to threaten anyone.